Chapter 1: Listen
It's easy enough to overpower the meager guard that the Council actually thought could contain her and escape the moving van as it careens down the highway. At the last moment, Faith considers the possibility that she just might need a hostage.
She knows her supernaturally enhanced body can better take the collision with the concrete than the body of her unconscious captive, so she allows herself to hit first, groaning at the impact.
She gets up, dragging Wesley along with her to an abandoned building, where the two of them can have some privacy.
When he comes around, she's in the process of building a fire in a long-neglected fireplace, trying to fill the cold, empty room with warmth.
At least, he hopes that's all she intends for the flames.
"Faith... listen to me. You've made a terrible mistake, but it's not too late to go back, not yet. It's not too late to untie me and turn yourself in. The Council won't..."
A sharp backhand blow of her fist across his face silences him, and she grabs his hair, jerking his head back as she straddles his lap, and the chair to which she's bound him.
"Now," she murmurs, her tone strangely seductive, her breath warm against his ear. "You listen, Wes. You and your damn Council don't call the shots anymore. I trusted you once already -- and you betrayed me."
Her smile is dark, cold, almost demonic, her chocolate eyes glittering with malicious pleasure as she tightens her hand in his hair, her smile widening at his whimper of pain. She takes out a narrow, razor-sharp blade, grinning when his eyes widen with fear at the sight, and pressing the flat of the blade to his throat.
"And now... I feel like telling you just what I think about that. And you're going to shut up... and listen..."
Chapter 2: Big Shoes
"Wait... give me a second..."
A breathless young Slayer holds out a halting hand, and her opponent lowers the fighting staff in her hands, waiting.
"No, no, no!" the Watcher protests, waving her arms and calling a halt to the clumsy sparring match she's observing. "This is pathetic! Seriously, do you really think a vampire's going to wait a second while you catch your breath? Keep fighting!"
Even as she speaks, the youngest female Watcher ever on record doubts her own actions. Has she been too hard on them? Has she gotten the right point across? Will what she's just said and done make these girls more likely to survive in actual battle -- or will it break their confidence enough to make them lose?
She never has been quite sure that she's cut out for this job.
She glances at the pictures that line the walls of the training room, her gaze lingering on the last one. Her eyes mist with tears as she thinks back to six months ago, when he was still with them -- just before he perished in combat.
She's fairly certain it's how he would have wanted to go.
But that doesn't do her much good, left behind to do the job at which he was better than anyone she's ever known.
She knows she has some enormous shoes to fill.
Steeling herself, squaring her shoulders, Dawn steps forward again to correct the latest minor error one of the girls has made.
She has a lot of work to do.
Chapter 3: Suspicion
Angel's been acting strangely for days.
He's ordinarily withdrawn and broody and quiet, but lately he's been more distant and irritable than ever. He's been taking off at odd hours with no explanation, and evasive when Doyle asks him what he's been working on, exactly.
They're alone in Angel's apartment, Angel pouring his blood from the container in the fridge and Doyle standing near the counter with a beer in his hand, when Doyle finally works up the nerve to broach the topic.
"What's up with you lately, man? You haven't exactly been yourself."
Angel turns to face him, and Doyle's mouth feels dry at the strange, cold smile on the vampire's lips. He can feel his heartbeat begin to race; judging by the slight widening of Angel's smile, he's aware of it as well.
When Angel begins slowly advancing -- like a cat that's already broken the mouse's back, and knows that there's no need to rush -- Doyle instinctively presses back against the counter, his hands trembling as he sets the beer down beside him. Instinct dictates that he needs his hands free in the face of this threat -- not that they'll do him much good.
"What's the matter, Doyle?" Angel asks in a soft, subtly taunting voice. "You seem uneasy."
"No," Doyle lies, edging away along the counter. "No, that's not it, I just... I'm curious. But... I don't necessarily need to know... I just..."
Angel moves with frightening speed, a large hand braced on the counter blocking Doyle's retreat. He's so close now that Doyle can feel the brush of Angel's clothes against his own, can feel the soft breath of cool air exhaled with Angel's next words.
"You're not... scared of me, are you, Doyle?"
"No," Doyle insists, his voice trembling as Angel's face changes and he closes in tighter, one hand tangling in the smaller demon's hair and pulling his head back. "No, no, I'm... I'm not..."
"Don't you trust me?" Angel whispers. "Be honest, now, boy..."
He's slipped back into a hint of his old Irish brogue, and his vampiric face has risen to the fore. Doyle knows that that can't be a good sign. He swallows hard, hesitating before shaking his head slightly.
Angel -- Angelus? -- already knows the truth, anyway.
"No," he whispers, bracing himself for the consequences of his admission. "I don't."
Angel's hands tighten on him for just a moment longer before Doyle finds himself abruptly released. He opens his eyes to see Angel's human face looking at him through solemn, dark eyes.
"Good," he replies flatly. "You shouldn't."
Without another word, he turns and walks away, leaving Doyle to his own troubled thoughts.
Chapter 4: Turned
She felt her strength ebbing away as the blood was drawn ruthlessly from her body, felt her struggles fading into nothingness... moments after the desire to struggle disappeared into a sense of blissful oblivion, the strangely peaceful knowledge that it was all about to finally be over.
No more responsibility.
No more guilt.
No more painful dreams keeping her up at night.
But... it wasn't over.
She awakened with a ravenous thirst that she easily recognized, and knew immediately what had happened. She made short work of the pathetic vamp that had made himself her sire, staking him in his sleep before rising and taking in the rush of information that assailed her newly heightened senses.
This was... not at all what she would have expected.
There was the peace, the freedom, the lack of guilt...
... but instead of ending, she had the strange sensation that her life was only beginning. She wasn't sure where she would go from here. There were so many options -- so many people who needed payback for the way they'd hurt and repressed her. There was only one thing Faith was sure of.
The next time I kill someone... I won't spend the next five years feeling bad about it.
He knows he's breaking her heart.
He knows he has no other choice.
She thinks they'll last forever, that their love is capable of overcoming any obstacle that might come their way. She thinks they're meant for each other.
He knows that no matter how much he loves her and she loves him... they're made for everything but each other.
Eventually she'll harden in her calling and come to better understand what he is, and hate him. Eventually, she'll grow old, and hate him for the reminder of what she once was and can never be again.
Eventually... gravity will drag them down, and apart.
He's only helping it along... while he still has the will to do so.